Review: Resident Evil 5: Desperate Escape (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Resident Evil 5: Desperate Escape
Genre: Action/Survival Horror
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: 03/03/10

As we mentioned last month, I’m a huge fan of Resident Evil 5, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of the two expansion packs announced by Capcom for the game. Though both of these expansion packs, as well as two costume packs for Chris and Sheva, will be included in the upcoming release of Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, Capcom has also decided to release this content online as DLC for gamers who still own the original release of the game. The first expansion, Lost in Nightmares, was meant to fill in some of the backstory surrounding Chris and Jill’s attempt to apprehend Umbrella founder Ozwell E. Spencer, and while it was a solid and balanced expansion with some interesting concepts incorporated, it was really an expansion best suited for fans of the game more than an expansion designed to make someone who was long since done with the game pick it up again. The second set of expansions, Desperate Escape, and a second pair of costumes for Chris and Sheva have just been released on the XBL service, and as before, I was all about downloading them and giving them a test run. Desperate Escape was supposed to fill in another time gap in the story and explain just how Josh Stone and Jill Valentine managed to get from the Tricell facility to help Chris and Sheva escape in the nick of time. As with the last series of expansions, these two add-ons also include two characters for a rearranged version of The Mercenaries, dubbed “The Mercenaries Reunion”, which features new characters, new weapon layouts, and some general changes to the enemy distribution. As of this point, Desperate Escape is 400 points, or about $5, while the costume pack retails for about 160 points, or about $2, so they’re both quite affordable, but let’s take a look and see if it’s worth dropping the cash on this new content.

Note: as this is a review of expansion content, you will need to own a copy of Resident Evil 5 to play it. Further, as you will need to own a copy of the main game to play this, this review will not discuss information relative to the core game, as this is handled in the original review. Changes made to the game mechanics will be discussed, however.

The Desperate Escape expansion fleshes out how, exactly, Josh and Jill find one another and how they manage to get from the Tricell facility to the volcano Chris and Sheva end up at during the end game events. Shortly after sending Sheva and Chris after Wesker to foil his nefarious plans, Jill pretty much blacks out and misses a few hours, thus proving that Chris was entirely fair in his not trusting of his partner. Live and learn, I suppose. Anyway, Jill ends up being found by Josh, and the two team up to get to his waiting helicopter, both to assist Chris and Sheva and to get far, far away from the dump that is the Tricell facility. This, as you would expect, involves blasting your way through massive enemy hordes, finding a few key items, and a decent amount of teamwork when Josh needs to throw Jill somewhere. Much like with Lost in Nightmares, the story is fairly minimal, and if you’ve played the main game you know how this ends, but the story is adequate enough to carry the expansion along without issue or concern. The pacing of Desperate Escape is dramatically different from that of Lost in Nightmares, however, and this is honestly for the better. Lost in Nightmares was a reasonably well balanced expansion, featuring a solid mix of puzzle solving, shooting and exploration, but it worked better as a single player experience and felt like something of an homage to the Resident Evil formula of old. Desperate Escape is pure action from start to finish, which is not only more consistent with the pacing of Resident Evil 5, but also makes for an expansion that’s great fun both alone and with a friend.

As this is an expansion pack, most of the good and bad elements of the original game carry over from the game to the add-on. The visuals are functionally similar, and while the locations in this expansion are different from those in the main game, they make equal use of new and existing designs and textures instead of being completely new visuals, as Lost in Nightmares was. The audio is once again mostly carried over from the main game, though the voice work is all new, and the voice actors from Resident Evil 5 again reprise their roles here as they did in the prior expansion. The core gameplay from Resident Evil 5 remains the same here, though the scoring and such of the mission is handled differently, as it was in the prior expansion. Since this mission is completely independent from the main game and focuses on new protagonists, you don’t have access to any of your funds or gear you might have earned. The game will instead provide you with different items and gear, depending on the part of the mission you’re on at that moment, so inventory management is kept to a minimum once again. Further, while the mission will score you based on the normal metrics (time, accuracy, etc.), it also offers various score stars to collect. Breaking or collecting these stars adds to your overall mission score, so those who want to get the best scores possible will want to hunt high and low for them, though with the abundance of respawning enemies, there’s a much higher star count to this expansion pack. The mission also offers multiple difficulty modes, as does the main game, and unlike Lost in Nightmares, the difficulty here mostly ups enemy count and damage, as there’s far less puzzle solving than in the prior expansion. The mission itself can be completed in a little over an hour, depending on how thorough you are about searching for weaponry, but with multiple difficulty levels to go through and the ability to play it on or offline with friends there’s a good amount to do with it overall.

Desperate Escape also contains add-on content for The Mercenaries Reunion, which, as noted prior, is a remixed version of The Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil 5. Each of the four DLC packages you can download comes with two characters for this mode, meaning that to unlock all eight characters you’ll have to download all four DLC packs. Desperate Escape comes with Josh Stone and Rebecca Chambers, while the costume pack unlocks Chris in his Heavy Metal gear and Sheva in her Businesswoman gear. Combined with Excella Gionne and Barry Burton from the Lost in Nightmares pack and the Warrior Chris and Fairytale Sheva variants from the first costume pack, you can acquire a total of eight characters for this updated Mercenaries mde. The character loadouts are notably distinct from each other, as well as from their regular Mercenaries counterparts, with each character having their own positives and negatives depending the stage. The stages are identical to those in the original Mercenaries mode, but the layouts of items and the enemy structures are sometimes drastically different. Timers are often (though not always) relocated, new enemies spawn in stages while old enemies are removed, and the Experimental Facility has become a nightmare, as it’s full of Lickers from the get go, making survival a good bit more challenging and changing up the tactics one would use to survive a good bit… or it was, anyway. Now, with Heavy Metal Chris, it’s the most awesome shooting gallery stage I’ve played yet, and you can easily break 60,000 points by ripping apart EVERYTHING YOU SEE with his chain gun. He’s not as useful as Tribal Sheva was in the original Mercenaries, but he’s still damn useful either way.

Much like with Lost in Nightmares, the expectations for Desperate Escape are lower than they were for Resident Evil 5, on account of this being an expansion and not a full game. There are, however, some minor issues with the expansion, though in the end, it’s a better overall product than its predecessor. Desperate Escape is only about an hour or so long, depending on how much exploring you do, so unless you intend to go through it on multiple difficulties, there’s really not a lot to the pack. Further, it doesn’t allow you to play around with your upgraded gear at all, so you’re stuck with whatever guns the mission gives you at their default capabilities. This makes less sense than it did in Lost in Nightmares, since you’re at least in the same location as Chris and Sheva, so using their upgraded gear isn’t a big stretch. Also, from a gameplay standpoint, allowing the player to go back with their tricked-out gear after completing it once would have made more sense and been more fun, since this expansion is purely combat-focused. Further, The Mercenaries Reunion still isn’t so drastically different from the original Mercenaries mode as to be a new and exciting thing, as it’s little than a remixed version of the original mode. This is fine for players who enjoyed The Mercenaries, certainly, but it would have been more interesting had Capcom integrated the remixed stages and new characters into the original Mercenaries mode, thus allowing you to pick from a much larger character roster. It also doesn’t help that the stages themselves are identical to the stages in The Mercenaries, even if the enemy patterns and placement of some items is different. Basically, all of the complaints noted while reviewing Lost in Nightmares still stand when discussing The Mercenaries Reunion, and none of that has changed upon downloading Desperate Escape.

Desperate Escape, while it too probably isn’t enough on its own to be worth picking up Resident Evil 5 if it’s out of your collection for some reason, especially not with Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition just around the corner, is an overall better expansion than Lost in Nightmares for both solo and multiplayer fun. The core positives of the original game are intact and the new mission provided is an action-packed blast from beginning to end that should please fans of the game immensely. The Mercenaries Reunion components provided by downloading this expansion as well as the additional available expansions opens up a whole new point-earning cooperative on and offline challenge, thanks to the new characters and new layouts of old stages, meaning that anyone who enjoyed blasting through the original should have fun with this. Desperate Escape itself, though longer than Lost in Nightmares, is still somewhat short, however, and while it changes up the enemy saturation and power somewhat depending on the difficulty, there isn’t enough to the mission to make it worthwhile if you don’t still have Resident Evil 5. Further, while The Mercenaries Reunion is still as fun as the original, offering some new stages or other additional content would have gone a long way toward making the expansions worth owning for this alone instead of making it a remixed version of a mode you’ve played already. If you still have Resident Evil 5 it’s worth downloading Desperate Escape because of how much fun it is, and the costumes just because they add more good content to a great game, but if you don’t have the game already, you might as well wait for Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition to come out instead of picking the game back up and downloading the content.

The Scores:
Story: GOOD
Graphics: UNPARALLELED
Sound: UNPARALLELED
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GREAT
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: CLASSIC

FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Desperate Escape is a mighty fine expansion pack for fans of Resident Evil 5 that adds worthwhile content and a fun, fast-paced mission to the game, but by itself it isn’t going to sell you on Resident Evil 5 if you don’t have a copy lying around. Desperate Escape is a very well-structured action-fest that’s challenging and fun for single and multiplayer mayhem, and it fills in a bit of backstory from the core game to boot. The two released expansions and the recently released costume packs also open up The Mercenaries Reunion, which is a remixed version of the original mode that contains new characters and layouts, so anyone who had fun with The Mercenaries should have fun with this remixed version of it. However, Desperate Escape is still a bit on the short side, and it isn’t enough extra content by itself to make you want to pick up Resident Evil 5 if you don’t have a copy when the Gold Edition is right around the corner. Further, The Mercenaries Reunion, while fun, isn’t as sound as it could have been. Adding in some new maps or allowing the new characters and old characters to be playable at the same time would have done wonders to make this mode more interesting than it is, and while it’s still fun, in a lot of respects, it’s more of the same. Desperate Escape is easily worth its asking price if you have Resident Evil 5 kicking around somewhere, but otherwise you can just wait a week or so and pick up Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition instead of picking up the original game and the DLC.

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